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Nebkheperre Tutankhamun (alternate transcription Tutankhamen), named Tutankhaten early in his life, was Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt (ruled 1334 BC – 1325 BC), during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. His original name, Tutankhaten, meant "Living Image of Aten", while Tutankhamun meant "Living Image of Amun". He is possibly also the Nibhurrereya of the Amarna letters.

In historical terms, Tutankhamun is of only moderate significance, primarily as a figure managing the beginning of the transition from the heretical Atenism of his predecessors Akhenaten and Smenkhkare back to the familiar Egyptian religion. As Tutankhamun began his reign at age 9, a considerable responsibility for his reign must also be assigned to his vizier and eventual successor, Ay. Nonetheless, Tutankhamun is in modern times the most famous of the Pharaohs, and the only one to have a nickname in popular culture ("King Tut"). The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter of his nearly intact tomb (subsequently designated KV62) received worldwide press coverage and sparked a renewed public interest in Ancient Egypt, of which Tutankhamun remains the popular face.



Tutankamun's parentage is uncertain. An inscription calls him a king's son, but it is debated which king was meant. Most scholars think that he was probably a son either of Amenhotep III (though probably not by his Great Royal Wife Tiye), or of Amenhotep III's son Amenhotep IV (better known as Akhenaten), perhaps with his enigmatic second queen, Kiya. It should be noted that when Tutankhaten succeeded Akhenaten and his short-lived sucessor Smenkhkare to the throne, Amenhotep III had been dead for some time; the duration is thought by some Egyptologists to have been seventeen years, although on this, as on so many questions about the Amarna period, there is no scholarly consensus. Tutankhamun ruled Egypt for eight to ten years; examinations of his mummy show that he was a young adult when he died. Recent CT scans place Tut at age 19. This conclusion was reached after images of Tut's teeth were examined, and were found to be consistent with the teeth of a 19 year old. That would place his birth around 1342 BC-1340 BC, and would make it less likely that Amenhotep III was his father.

Tutankhamun was married to Ankhesenpaaten, a daughter of Akhenaten. Ankhesenpaaten also changed her name from the -aten endings to the -amun ending, becoming Ankhesenamun. They had two known children, both stillborn girls – their mummies were discovered in his tomb.


During Tutankhamun's reign, Akhenaten's Amarna revolution (Atenism) began to be reversed. Akhenaten had attempted to supplant the existing priesthood and gods with a god who was until then considered minor, Aten. In year 3 of Tutankhamun's reign (1331 BC), when he was still a boy of about 11 and probably under the influence of two older advisors (notably Akhenaten's vizier Ay), the ban on the old pantheon of gods and their temples was lifted, the traditional privileges restored to their priesthoods, and the capital moved back to Thebes. The young pharaoh also adopted the name Tutankhamun, changing it from his birth name Tutankhaten. Because of his age at the time these decisions were made, it is generally thought that most if not all the responsibility for them falls on his vizier Ay and perhaps other advisors.

Events after his death

A now-famous letter to the Hittite king Suppiluliumas I from a widowed queen of Egypt, explaining her problems and asking for one of his sons as a husband, has been attributed to Ankhesenamun (among others). Suspicious of this good fortune, Suppiluliumas I first sent a messenger to make inquiries on the truth of the young queen's story. After reporting her plight back to Suppilulumas I, he sent his son, Zannanza, accepting her offer. However, he got no further than the border before he died, perhaps murdered. If Ankhesenamun were the queen in question, and his death a murder, it was probably at the orders of Horemheb or Ay, who both had the opportunity and the motive.

In any event, after Tutankhamun's death Ankhesenamun married Ay (a signet ring, with both Ay and Ankehesenamun's name was found), possibly under coercion, and shortly afterwards disappeared from recorded history.

Tutankhamun was briefly succeeded by the elder of his two advisors, Ay, and then by the other, Horemheb, who obliterated most of the evidence of the reigns of Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun, and Ay.

Cause of death

For a long time the cause of Tutankhamun's death was unknown, and was the root of much speculation. How old was the king when he died? Did he suffer from any physical abnormalities? Had he been murdered? Many of these questions were finally answered in early 2005 when the results of a set of CT scans on the mummy were released.

The body was originally inspected by Howard Carter’s team in the early 1920s, though they were primarily interested in recovering the jewelry and amulets from the body. To remove the objects from the body, which in many cases were stuck fast by the hardened embalming resins used, Carter's team cut up the mummy into various pieces: the arms and legs were detached, the torso cut in half and the head was severed. Hot knives were used to remove it from the golden mask to which it was cemented by resin. Since the body was placed back in its sarcophagus in 1926, the mummy has subsequently been X-rayed three times: first in 1968 by a group from the University of Liverpool, then in 1978 by a group from the University of Michigan and finally in 2005 a team of Egyptian scientists led by Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawass conducted a CT scan on the mummy.

Early (pre-2005) X-rays of his mummy had revealed a dense spot at the lower back of the skull. This had been interpreted as a chronic subdural hematoma, which would have been caused by a blow. Such an injury could have been the result of an accident, but it had also been suggested that the young pharaoh was murdered. If this is the case, there are a number of theories as to who was responsible: one popular candidate was his immediate successor Ay. Interestingly, there are seemingly signs of calcification within the supposed injury, which if true meant Tutankhamun lived for a fairly extensive period of time (on the order of several months) after the injury was inflicted.

Much confusion had been caused by a small loose sliver of bone within the upper cranial cavity, which was discovered from the same X-ray analysis. Some people have mistaken this visible bone fragment for the supposed head injury. In fact, since Tutankhamun's brain was removed post mortem in the mummification process, and considerable quantities of now-hardened resin introduced into the skull on at least two separate occasions after that, had the fragment resulted from a pre-mortem injury, it almost certainly would not still be loose in the cranial cavity. It therefore almost certainly represented post-mummification damage.

2005 research and findings

On March 8, 2005, Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass revealed the results of a CT scan performed on the pharaoh's mummy. The scan uncovered no evidence for a blow to the back of the head as well as no evidence suggesting foul play. There was a hole in the head, but it appeared to have been drilled, presumably by embalmers. A fracture to Tutankhamun's left thighbone was interpreted as evidence that suggests the pharaoh badly broke his leg before he died, and his leg became infected; however, members of the Egyptian-led research team recognized as a less likely possibility that the fracture was caused by the embalmers. 1,700 images were produced of Tutankhamun's mummy during the 15-minute CT scan. The research also showed that the pharaoh had cleft palate

Much was learned about the young king's life. His age at death was estimated at 19 years, based on physical developments that set upper and lower limits to his age. The king had been in general good health, and there were no signs of any major infectious disease or malnutrition during childhood. He was slight of build, and was roughly 170 cm (5½ ft) tall. He had large front incisor teeth and the overbite characteristic of the rest of the Thutmosid line of kings to which he belonged. He also had a pronounced dolichocephalic (elongated) skull, though it was within normal bounds and highly unlikely to have been pathologic in cause. Given the fact that many of the royal depictions of Akhenaten (possibly his father, certainly a relation), often featured an elongated head, it is likely an exaggeration of a family trait, rather than a distinct abnormality more typical of a condition like Marfan's syndrome, as had been suggested. A slight bend to his spine was also found, but the scientists agreed that there was no associated evidence to suggest that it was pathological in nature, and that it was much more likely to have been caused during the embalming process. This ended speculation based on the previous X-rays that Tutanhkamun had suffered from scoliosis.

The 2005 conclusion by a team of Egyptian scientists, based on the CT scan findings, confirmed that Tutankhamun died of a swift attack of gangrene after breaking his leg. After consultations with Italian and Swiss experts, the Egyptian scientists found that the fracture in Tutankhamun's left leg most likely occurred only days before his death, which had then become gangrenous and led directly to his death. The fracture was not sustained during the mummification process or as a result of some damage to the mummy as claimed by Howard Carter. The Egyptian scientists have also found no evidence that he had been struck in the head and no other indication he was killed, as had been previously speculated.

Despite the relatively poor condition of the mummy, the Egyptian team found evidence that great care had been given to the body of Tutankhamun during the embalming process. They found five distinct embalming materials, which were applied to the body at various stages of the mummification process. This counters previous assertions that the king’s body had been prepared carelessly and in a hurry.

















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